Great Dane vs Irish Wolfhound

Great Dane vs. Irish Wolfhound: Key Differences (Explained)

The Great Dane and the Irish Wolfhound are two giant dog breeds. However, being gentle giants that serve as companion dogs is the closest attribute they share.

They have several key differences, and these include appearance (coat color, coat length, size, etc.), temperament, lifespan, trainability, maintenance requirements, and price. In this article, we will explain the critical differences between these two delightful dogs.

Great Dane

The Great Dane is a German breed of dog that originated in 1400 BC. Due to his immense speed and size, he was trained by German aristocrats to hunt wild hogs. Ironically, even though this mastiff was bred to be a hunter, today, he is famously called “the gentle giant.”

As the name implies, he is affectionate, friendly, and gentle—he will even get along with other pets you have, especially if they’re raised together. Genetically, it is agreed that the Great Dane is a cross between the English Mastiff and the Irish Wolfhound, explaining its giant size.

Irish Wolfhound

This historically loyal dog breed is a sighthound (a type of dog that hunts by sight and speed) that evolved from early greyhounds in Ireland around 700 BC. He was a war dog used to pull men down from horses or chariots.

Due to his strong sight and impressive speed, the Irish Wolfhound was used to effectively hunt and kill wolves and deer that plagued the plains. Today, Irish Wolfhounds are sweet, loyal, and gracious companion dogs.

The Key Differences

Below are the key differences between the two breeds mentioned above:


Although the Great Dane and the Irish Wolfhound are giant dogs, they possess significant differences in their appearances that practically make it impossible to confuse one for the other. Some areas of these differences include coat color, coat length, ear shape, weight, and height.

Coat Color and Length

The Great Dane boasts of a short, dense, and smooth coat. The coat color can be blue, merle, solid black, fawn, brindle, or a patterned mixture of black and white (mantle and harlequin).

Also, it is not uncommon for Great Danes to have patterned markings on their heads and bodies.

The Irish Wolfhound, on the other hand, possesses a coarse, strong, and wiry double coat that can be either straight or wavy. Their coat often grows around their eyes, forming a sort of hairy mask that they enjoy being rubbed.

Furthermore, there are several colors your Irish Wolfhound can be, and they include white, solid black, red, fawn, gray, brindle, silver, blue, etc. They generally do not have patterned markings on their heads due to the length of their coats.

Basically, while Great Danes have short coats, Irish Wolfhounds’ fur is shaggy and long; while Great Danes often possess patterned coats, Irish Wolfhounds do not.

Consequently, Great Danes are perfect for warmer climates, while Irish Wolfhounds are perfect for colder climates.

Weight and Height

Male Great Danes typically weigh between 100 and 200 pounds while their female counterparts weigh between 90 to 130 pounds, with their weights being determined by the type.

They are muscular-looking dogs that can appear imposing; however, they are very good-natured. Furthermore, Great Danes are typically 28 to 32 inches tall, on average.

The Irish Wolfhound weighs lesser than Great Dane. 90 to 160 pounds is the typical range of weight for the sighthound. However, on average, it is the tallest dog breed in the world.

This breed stands between 28 to 35 inches tall.

Generally, Great Danes are heavier and larger, while Irish Wolfhounds are taller.

Ear Shape and other body parts

The Great Dane has medium-sized ears which naturally fold forward, while the Irish Wolfhound has ears that are carried back. The mastiff’s tail is long, sleek, and thin, and it tends to stay low.

The sighthound, on the other hand, has a shaggy, long tail that curves upward.

Temperament and Service

Although both are called gentle giants, they have significantly different personalities. Great Danes are generally more friendly and playful (both to humans and other animals) than Irish Wolfhounds; however, Irish Wolfhounds are more sensitive, athletic, and dignified.

Great Dane

Great Danes are friendly, affectionate, and gentle. They adore human company, so you can forget about spending extended alone time if you adopt a Great Dane. They can be somewhat shy, but with early socialization, they will be more extroverted and play a lot.  

These mastiffs are typically very gentle with children, so they are the better choice of the two breeds if you have kids. Furthermore, while this breed won’t aggressively bite strangers, their powerful bark (which happens semi-frequently) is enough to intimidate trespassers; basically, they are capable watchdogs but poor guard dogs.

Irish Wolfhound

The most loyal of all giant canines. The Irish Wolfhound is a dignified and sweet breed that can also be impulsive. Although they are not hunting dogs anymore, their underlying hunting instincts are still quite keen; unlike Great Danes, Irish Wolfhounds should be kept on a leash during walks to keep them from chasing animals or other moving objects.

Irish Wolfhounds aren’t prone to barking or howling; consequently, this makes them worse watchdogs than Great Danes. They are more docile than the Great Danes, but they are prone to having random bursts of energy, so they are perfect for living situations with well-guarded open spaces where they can run freely.

Great Danes are more kid-friendly than Irish Wolfhounds, so they are better suited for households with little kids, while the latter will be perfect for homes with older kids. Also, Irish Wolfhounds are persistent chasers; Great Danes rarely chase.

Furthermore, if you prefer a service dog, opt for the extroverted Great Dane over the reserved Irish Wolfhound.

Living and Maintenance Requirements

Both dogs have similar grooming requirements (minimal grooming), but they differ in maintenance requirements. Irish Wolfhounds require open yards (preferably fenced) to play freely, so this breed isn’t very suitable for apartment living, or you will end up with an unhappy dog.

They are more athletic and outdoorsy than the Great Danes, so they require outdoor play times where they can put their burst of energy to use and exercise their bodies. However, if you have a puppy, be careful not to take him on extended walks as the strain may be too much for his growing body.

On the other hand, Great Danes make excellent apartment dogs as they generally have low energy and are more than fine hanging out with you indoors.

However, you must consider the apartment size as a Great Dane will take up a significant amount of space just by standing around. Like Irish Wolfhounds, they also need daily exercise and walks to keep them healthy.


In training, the Great Dane is easier to train than the Irish Wolfhound. Great Danes are eager to please, making them very easy to train. They are intelligent dogs that respond well to consistency and positive reinforcements.

Irish Wolfhounds, on the other hand, are relatively more challenging to train due to their energetic dispositions and penchant for independence. Still, they will respond well to training and socialization if they are taught early enough. Keep in mind: if you’re a first-time dog owner, a Great Dane may prove too much to handle, seeing as he will be more headstrong than an Irish Wolfhound.

Health Concerns and Lifespan

Being giant dogs, Great Danes and Irish Wolfhounds live relatively short lives. However, on average, Irish Wolfhounds have shorter lifespans than Great Danes.

They both live for a maximum of about ten years, although most Irish Wolfhounds live till around eight years old. Sadly, the Irish Wolfhound can die as early as six years, while the Great Dane typically starts aging out around eight years.

Also, being purebreds, the two breeds suffer from health issues specific to their breeds. Below are some of their common health issues:

Irish Wolfhounds have increased sensitivity to anesthesia, seeing as they are sighthounds; Great Danes do not suffer from this problem. Administering a regular dose of anesthesia to an Irish Wolfhound can lead to its death, so ensure your veterinarian is conversant with this sensitivity. 

Irish Wolfhounds also suffer from Progressive Retina Atrophy (PRA): an eye disorder that often leads to blindness in dogs; conversely, this degenerative disorder is relatively rare in Great Danes.

Irish Wolfhounds are prone to suffering from Elbow Dysplasia; Great Danes do not suffer from this condition. Elbow Dysplasia is a genetic condition that can lead to painful lameness. Rest assured that it can be corrected by surgery or weight management, and your dog will be fine.

Great Danes suffer from Mitral Valve Disease (a heart valve disease), but Irish Wolfhounds are safe from this condition. Although unfortunately, the older a wolfhound gets, the higher the odds he will develop an incurable heart condition.

Generally, they are both prone to a host of health concerns; however, an Irish Wolfhound will exhibit health concerns earlier than a Great Dane due to the former’s shorter lifespan.


Generally, Irish Wolfhounds are rarer than Great Danes, and as we know, the rarer the breed, the more expensive the dog. To purchase a registered Irish Wolfhound pup, you may have to break the bank a bit. You can expect to spend as much as $1,400 to $2,500 for a wolfhound pup. You may find cheaper ones, but they’ll likely be low-quality pups prone to serious health problems.

Conversely, Great Danes are significantly cheaper than Irish Wolfhounds. You can get a Dane puppy for as low as $800 and as high as $3,000. Keep in mind that the price of your pup depends on the lineage and its quality.

Essentially, you can afford to spend less to purchase a Great Dane compared to an Irish Wolfhound.

Conclusion: Great Dane vs. Irish Wolfhound: Key Differences

In conclusion, both breeds share enough qualities to serve as lovely family dogs; however, they are distinct enough for you to sit and consider what you want in a dog before selecting anyone of them.

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